No. 6 Reason Why The Bolts Are Primed for Success: Teddy Purcell
There was a time, Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Guy Boucher said, when forward Teddy Purcell didn't realize just how good of a player he was.
But if this past season serves as an indication, it appears as if Purcell is beginning to find out.
The Lightning forward finished the regular season with a career-best 24 goals, 41 assists and 65 points to eclipse his previous totals in each of those categories from the 2010-11 campaign, and finish as one of just four players in the history of the franchise to score at least 60 points in a single season after going undrafted.
For Purcell, who possesses a tremendous passing ability and an incredible shot to go along with great speed, offensive skills have never been in question.
Rather, it was both confidence and consistency that eluded the Bolts wing.
Until this season, that is.
"For me, those were both things I tried to strive for this past season," Purcell said. "I think with one comes the other and they kind of go hand-in-hand, so I was pretty fortunate to take advantage of my minutes and make the most of my opportunity."
In terms of ice time, Purcell found success by doing more with less.
Although he finished third on the team in points behind both Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis, he ranked fifth among team forwards in ice time, averaging just 16:07 per game. By contrast, captain Vincent Lecavalier was third with 18:55 and Ryan Malone fourth with 17:41, yet they finished with 49 and 48 points, respectively on the season, more than 15 fewer than Purcell's 65.
"To get more ice time, there's a lot more than production," Boucher told The Tampa Bay Times. "It's about whether a guy can bring a relentless attitude in his game and a physical involvement and being first on puck."
Purcell certainly has the capabilities to be the type of player sought out by Boucher, who likes guys with complete games and not just offensive inclinations.
He proved that specifically when Lecavalier went down due to injury on Feb. 18, causing Purcell to earn minutes on both the top line and number-one power-play unit with Stamkos and St. Louis. In the captain's absence, he also ripped off a team season-high 11-game point streak with seven goals and 18 points in that span, helping the Lightning continue their late-season push towards a playoff spot.
The display, while impressive, was more than just a testament to Purcell's physical on-ice talents.
"Things like that also take a certain mental approach," Purcell added. "You can be in good shape and come out bigger and stronger, but night in and night out, the key is to be mentally focused and being ready to go. That was a big thing for me."
Just as big was his ability to break out of some old habits.
When he first arrived in Tampa Bay in March of 2010 following a trade with the Los Angeles Kings, Purcell admitted that the presence of such stars such as Stamkos, St. Louis and Lecavalier led him to have a pass-first mentality.
But after getting to know them and stepping into more prominent roles, Purcell learned to not waste as many opportunities, which started with utilizing a zippy wrist shot that was classified by teammate Nate Thompson as "outstanding."
The strategy seemingly paid immediate dividends, as Purcell was one of five Lightning players this season to score 20 or more goals. Hockey executives even tabbed him for Team Canada to represent his native country at the 2012 World Championships, in which he is currently participating.
Sounds as if Purcell himself isn't the only one who is beginning to realize just how good he is.